German election pledges fall short of climate targets - even the Greens

Think tank says even the Green party's proposals would not meet Paris Agreement goals

Disastrous summer floods in Germany helped make climate change a major topic in the election campaign. AFP
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None of Germany’s major parties are pledging action on climate strong enough to meet the country’s green targets, a think tank has said.

The Greens have the strongest pitch – but even the environmentalists have an “ambition gap”, which falls short of global goals, according to the German Institute for Economic Research.

Climate change is a key issue at this month’s election, especially after catastrophic summer floods that were widely blamed on global warming.

Germany’s climate law calls for a 55 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but there are disagreements over how to achieve this.

The head of the institute’s energy department, Claudia Kemfert, said even stronger action was needed to fulfil the Paris Agreement, which calls for a limit on global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

“None of the manifestos contain a policy that is sufficient to meet the climate targets set in law for 2030,” she said.

“That means meeting the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement is not possible, which actually calls for more emissions reductions than envisaged in law.”

Analysts looked at the manifestos of five major parties and gave them a score out of four based on how they plan to tackle climate change.

No score was given to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which questions the scientific consensus and wants to abandon the Paris Agreement.

The Greens were the winners with a score of 3.62 thanks to climate pledges that were detailed, ambitious and grounded in science, Ms Kemfert said.

Green pledges

Climate change is the main theme of the Green manifesto, which calls for an end to Germany’s use of coal to be brought forward eight years to 2030.

The party wants to review all new laws for their climate impact to ensure they are compatible with Germany’s targets.

Nonetheless, “even the Greens have an implementation gap with regard to the climate targets for 2030”, Ms Kemfert said.

“In addition, even they cannot close the gap between the German climate law and the 1.5°C target.”

The left-wing Linke received the second-highest grade after promising to make Germany carbon-neutral by 2035, a bolder target than the Greens are offering.

But the party lost points for rejecting carbon pricing, which its manifesto says does “not provide effective climate protection”.

Social Democrat candidate Olaf Scholz, left, and Christian Democrat nominee Armin Laschet, right, during a parliamentary debate in Berlin. AFP

The Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD), the two parties most likely to win the chancellorship, received similar scores.

Analysts said the CDU had strengths in energy policy and the SPD in transport, but accused both of lacking detail.

They said the SPD was vague about the planned 2038 exit from coal, while the CDU manifesto did not address a transition away from natural gas.

Armin Laschet, the CDU candidate and governor of a coal-rich state, has stressed the importance of maintaining jobs in industry while tackling climate change.

SPD candidate Olaf Scholz has championed the idea of a “climate club” of major emitters, which he presented to Cabinet ministers last month.

The pro-business FDP received the weakest score, with what Ms Kemfert described as the least concrete measures of the five parties.

Party leader Christian Lindner has emphasised innovation as a means of tackling climate change, with a motto of “inventing rather than banning”.

Updated: September 10, 2021, 12:19 PM
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